British Columbia

Protesters rally across Canada over Trans Mountain pipeline decision

Rallies were held outside the offices of Liberal MPs across the country Monday, as people protested the federal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline.

More than 100 protests planned against federal government's $4.5B purchase of pipeline

Patti Boss, left, and Viola Papequash of the Rising Sun Singers drum at a protest in Whitehorse against the federal government's decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Rallies were held outside the offices of Liberal MPs across the country Monday, as people protested the federal government's decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline.

More than 100 protests were planned, from Charlottetown to Whitehorse, after Ottawa agreed last week to buy the Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion. Construction of the pipeline expansion will likely add several billion dollars to that price tag, experts say.

In Alberta, where Premier Rachel Notley has been one of the strongest political voices in favour of the expansion plans, protesters exchanged words with supporters of the pipeline outside Liberal MP Kent Hehr's downtown Calgary office.

The Trans Mountain expansion would allow the movement of 890,000 barrels of oil products each day from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. Currently, the pipeline can transport 300,000 barrels per day.

A pipeline supporter counter-protests demonstrators opposing the federal government's purchase of Trans Mountain outside Calgary MP Kent Hehr's downtown office on June 4, 2018. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The biggest point of contention seemed to be the pipeline expansion's effect on climate change.

Protester Reynold Reimer said he'd rather see the government spend money on developing renewable energy.

"There's no guarantee we won't lose our shirts and … we're going to have infrastructure running for 40 years pumping carbon out into the atmosphere," he said.

But one pipeline supporter, wearing a T-shirt that said "I Heart Oil & Gas," insisted that "the climate issue is a scam."

Contentious project

The project has been approved by the federal government, but has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by First Nations groups and environmentalists. The B.C. government, meanwhile, is asking the provincial Court of Appeal to decide if the province has the right to bring in stricter environmental rules for companies that want to increase movement of heavy oil.

Protests against Trans Mountain have become a daily occurrence in the Vancouver area, where the rally outside Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's office drew a few dozen people Monday.

Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, said he felt disappointed by the decision to purchase the pipeline from Kinder Morgan, but not defeated.

"This movement and the strength of the opposition here in British Columbia drove a Texas oil company out of town. We sent them back with their tail between their legs — unfortunately, with $4.5 billion —​ but now we need to hold the folks that did that accountable," he told CBC News.

Protesters gathere outside Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's Vancouver office. ( Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

In Whitehorse, about 65 people waved signs and delivered a petition at the office of Liberal MP Larry Bagnell.

The protest included drumming by Viola Papequash and Patti Boss of the Rising Sun Singers.

"We need to protect the Earth, the water, the air that we breathe. This is about our children and our future," Papequash said. "We have the sun, the water, the wind. Why aren't we using those things?"

Some former Liberal supporters were among the crowd, and they told reporters they were having second thoughts about the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"It goes totally contrary to everything he had in his platform," Joey Krahn said of the pipeline purchase.

"It's not renewable energy, it's totally against working with the First Nations, and I just think it's totally the wrong decision, especially considering the deficit we're in financially. I'm altogether all opposed to this decision."

'It's in Canada's best interest'

In Winnipeg, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux spoke to protesters by phone, telling them he was open to an in-person meeting or even a town hall.

"I do believe it's in Canada's best interest to proceed," Lamoureux said of the pipeline. "I honestly believe that the amount we've put into it will, in fact, be returned to us at some point in time."

The protests were organized by a coalition of advocacy groups, Including Leadnow, Coast Protectors, Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians.

Protester Bryce Weedmark listens to an answer from Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoreux outside the politician's office at a rally Monday against the federal government's plan to buy a pipeline for $4.5 billion. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

With files from Rachel Ward, Tanya Fletcher, Philippe Morin and Bethany Lindsay